Q: How did you get into creative writing?
A: Throughout most of my life I felt like I had to balance out my creative, left-brain side with my analytical, right-brain side. Early on I had artistic gifts, but for a variety of reasons I really tried to be a detailed, analytical person. I succeeded in that, somewhat, but what I began to realize a few years ago was that my attempts at being more right-brained were actually creativity in disguise. For example, I would use Excel to make elaborate spreadsheets, but as soon as I was done creating them, I had no desire to use them. Making the tool was more fun than actually using it.
Meanwhile, I did have creative outlets, but I had a hard time focusing on just one that I could get really good at doing. I was artistic, musical, and dabbled in writing, but one day I decided that writing was where I had the most potential. Once I decided to do one creative thing and do it well, and to learn how to best manage my time, I really began to make progress. Now I’m focused on embracing my creative nature more fully.
Q: What are the influences in your writing?
A: There are probably three major branches of influences in my writing: truth-revealing, technical, and imaginative.
The first is that I’m a teacher at heart. I can’t seem to avoid finding the lessons in things, and I respond to media that illuminates universal truths. I really enjoyed the symbolism in C.S. Lewis’ fiction and how it entertains as well as reveals the nature of life. I also really like Randal Arthur’s Wisdom Hunter and Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness, where once you’ve finished reading them you realize you’ve shifted your point of view on things. Orson Scott Card also fits in this vein with me. I love Ender’s Game and the sequel Speaker of the Dead. And last, I really enjoy G.K. Chesterton, who is the best classic writer no one has heard of. Please look him up online. And lately I’ve come to admire Gary Whitta who wrote the screenplay for The Book of Eli.
Second, in a technical manner, I’d have to credit several writers and filmmakers who have influenced me in the craft of writing. Stephen King’s focus on characters driving the plot has been helpful to me. Another writer who shares this same focus is Elmore Leonard. I’ve taken his advice to avoid describing characters physically since it tends to become a cheap substitute for actual character building. Also I try to avoid what he calls “hooptedoodle”, which is descriptive writing that gets in the way of a story’s progress. Joss Whedon is another hero in great character development. As far as creating stories, one influence is J.J. Abrams of Lost fame, who constructs his stories like onions, where you have to peel back each mysterious layer until you finally reach the nuggets underneath. David Weber has influenced a lot of my sentence structure. Last, I’ll credit J.K. Rowling who understands point-of-view and its power better than anyone.
Third, with imagination and the sense of wonder it can bring, I’d have to credit these filmmakers for obvious reasons: George Lucas,Stephen Spielberg, James Cameron, the Coen brothers, the Wachowski brothers, the Pixar movie studio, plus many others. Writers would include Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Frank Herbert, Anne McCaffrey,Patrick O’Brian, Orson Scott Card (again), among others.
Q: How do you decide on what you are going to write?
A: It always starts with an idea or an inspiration. With Runaway, it started with pirates. I couldn’t readily recall a pirate story told in a futuristic setting. About that time I had begun reading a Bible reordered chronologically, and for the first time saw how the letters of the New Testament fit in with the historical account in Acts. The two ideas intersected somewhere, the pirate story being the first act, portions of the book of Acts being the second, and the letter toPhilemon becoming the third act.
Another story I’ve never put down on paper started when I read about the Daedalus mission, a privately developed plan for a robotic mission to a nearby star. I started thinking about what a mission like that would find, and how long it would take for humanity to catch up with it. And then I wondered what if the “first” human explorers to this nearby solar system realized they weren’t the first ones there, that the Daedalus mission was actually a secret, manned mission. That story idea is tentatively called Forgotten, I’ve just yet to decide what would be the best vehicle for telling it. Update: Since answering this question I’ve gone on to write Forgotten. To read, please click the Stories tab in the header.
Q: Where do you get your ideas for the different races and civilizations in your stories?
A: I try to root all my characters and civilizations in something familiar, but then twist it in a different direction, carrying it out to its logical result. For example, with the Kaarrthaaggians in Runaway, I just started with the idea I wanted something really alien, but familiar enough where the average reader could relate to it. I chose sharks since they are predatory and already feel alien and threatening to us. From there I had to make adjustments. They needed hands to build their tools and ships. So what would a fish with hands look like? I choose wavy eel-like arms with fins they use like fingers.
By trying to keep it grounded and logical, I think that makes it feel more real. I carried that idea forward with their world. I explore that idea more in Stowaway, the bonus short story I wrote. If they developed on an ocean world how would they ever develop power or industry? Well, they really couldn’t use electricity in water, so what would they use? So, you see, if you start with something familiar, twist it slightly, and build on it logically, then pretty soon you’ve developed an imaginative world unlike any other, but believable all the same.
Q: Are your characters based off of real people?
A: Yes and no. A lot of characters in Runaway were real people and only a few do we know much about. The rest I had to invent. I don’t think there is an author out there who doesn’t pull bits and pieces from actual people and plug them in. But I don’t think anyone will read any of my work and think, “Hey, he’s writing about me!”
Q: Why didn’t you use a regular publisher for Runaway?
A: There is a lot that goes into this question but the short answer is: at this point I don’t think there is much a traditional publisher would do for me other than give me a tiny amount of exposure nationally. I’d still have to do everything I’m doing now. This way I can have more control, I can set my own pace, and I have all the motivation of a small business owner.
Q: How much time do you spend on writing?
A: Not near enough! Having a full time job, trying to be a good husband and father, being involved in my church and community all demand time. We only have 168 hours a week and it comes down to budgeting that time by priority. Yet, amazingly, it seems I get more done when I have “less” time. I guess that’s because I know I can’t put things off. But to answer the question, I spend Thursday evenings completely devoted to writing for 3-4 hours. And I try to put the same amount of time in on the weekends if possible. And then I do a little here and there if I find opportunity. All told I’d say I spend an average of 4-6 hours weekly. Which is why it takes me 18 months to write a novel.
Q: How did you know you wanted to write instead of something else?
A: Well, the thing is there are lots of things I want to do. It just comes down to choices. I’m not a subscriber to the idea that God has a day by day plan for all that we do, a “perfect will”. But I do think he has a plan for the type of person he wants me to be with my character and actions. I also truly believe God has given each of us passions and talents which point us in a general direction. I would say that if you’re looking to find what it is God wants you to do with your life, then just spend some time thinking about what gives you joy. What activities do you do that when you do them time seems to fly by? When do you feel God’s wind in your sails? If you can put your finger on that, then next figure out how you can use that to make people’s lives better. If you can do that, then you’re starting to find your calling and vocation. The next step is finding a way to get paid for it, and that’s a job. In my own case, I think I could easily be a filmmaker or a music producer. It just needs to be creative in that way God built me. With writing, I felt I had the best chance to bless the most people, so that helped me narrow down to that field.
Q: What are you working on next?
A: My next project to publish is a volume of two short novels calledThe Allegiance Saga – Volume One. I wrote these before Runaway. Next up for writing will probably be a superhero story called Suits, about a teen brother and sister who find what appear to be superhero suits in their grandfather’s house. They put these suits on for fun, but quickly realize the suits have powers to match their looks. And of course, as always, on the heels of gained super powers come super villains. This will be an origin story with a lot of twists, and probably the first of a trilogy if I can get some details worked out. Probably after Suits, I’ll work on the second volume for the Allegiance Saga. Maybe by then I’ll be a full time writer and can produce these more quickly.
Q: Do you have any other books or stories I can read?
A: I do. Check out the Stories page to links to a few things.
Q: Is there anything you’ve written that you don’t want people to read?
A: My first novels are great stories, but really rough to read. I may rewrite those one day, but until then they will stay safely private.
Q: What do you do when you sit down to write? What’s your routine?
A: The left side of your brain is the creative side, while the right side is more analytical, problem-solving. The problem is we’re usually allowing our right side to take the lead with solving all of life’s tasks and problems, and you can’t shift over to the left side quickly or easily. So my typical routine is to read over what I’ve previously written, adding in details and polish. By the time I’ve finished that I’m feeling pretty creative. And then I write and write and write. I don’t stop for editing, since that would put me back into the right side of my brain, hampering my creativity. After about 90 minutes to 2 hours I come to stopping point, then do some editing then when it’s safe to find my right mind again. ;>)
Q: Why are you going to have a free download of the book on line? Won’t that hurt your sales of the book?
A: It doesn’t seem like it makes sense, but basically a certain percentage of people who read a book free online decide to purchase the book. Either they don’t care for reading on a screen but like what they’ve so far read enough to want to buy a paper copy, or else they buy it afterward as gifts or just to have their own copy to keep — if they liked it. Regardless, what happens is it generates a ton of word-of-mouth advertising (the best kind), and what you might lose in one hand you gain in the other… and usually a whole lot more.
Recently, Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired magazine, wrote a book called Free – The Future of a Radical Price, which talked about this phenomenon. He released his book free online for six weeks at the same time just as it came out in hardback. You’d think he would have undercut his sales, but despite millions of people reading the book online, it shot to the top of the NY Times best-seller list.
That’s what I’m trying to duplicate, but at a much smaller level. At my stage, I’m really just trying to build an audience. If I can get 10,000 people to read Runaway it will be a roaring success in building an audience who are ready to buy my next book. As a bonus, if 2% (200 people) buy the book off my website, I’ll make back my entire budget spent producing it. So I guess I’m looking at it as a win-win on several levels. Let’s pray it works!
Have a question? Click here to send me an email. I will try my best to answer your question and you might even see it here! EDC